A rare book containing deadly arsenic has been found by a librarian in Leeds Central Library.

The discovery by librarian Miss Rhian Isaac, is part of a global project to find toxic texts hidden on shelves across the world.

My Own Garden: The Young Gardener’s Yearbook was published in 1855, and has now been safely tucked away behind the scenes in the library, well away from visitors.

The startling discovery was made when the senior librarian began cross-referencing the library’s vast collection against the database of The Poison Book Project.  

Credit: Leeds City Council

Miss Isaac said: “As a librarian, it’s always incredibly exciting to discover any sort of rare, or unusual book in our collection. 

“But this project is also really important as it helps librarians across the world work together and understand how and when these books were made as well as what steps we can take to keep track of them and make sure they are safely stored and cared for.”

The project, which was started by the International Institute for Conservation of Historic Artistic Works, aims to identify different editions of historic books once commonly produced using hazardous compounds and heavy metals such as arsenic.

Miss Isaac said: “Amazingly, heavy metals were once quite commonly used in the production of books as a way to achieve what was considered a very aesthetically pleasing shade of green. 

“Whilst people at the time were certainly aware substances like arsenic were harmful, they probably didn’t understand the many different ways they could be accidentally ingested.”

Credit: Leeds City Council

Research revealed the book owes its vivid emerald green colour to a dye containing quantities of arsenic, which can be lethal when ingested. 

My Own Garden contains tips for budding young gardeners and is now being stored safely and securely away from visitors before being sent away and scanned with a specialist spectograph which will reveal the amount of arsenic it contains.

Councillor Mary Harland, Leeds City Council executive member for communities, said: “Our libraries are a fantastic public resource, but they also play a pivotal role in the preservation of our city’s rich and fascinating heritage.

“The incredible work that goes on behind the scenes to catalogue and document our unique collection plays a huge part in that and ensures these captivating stories are not lost to the ages.”

Credit: Leeds City Council